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Londoners' advice for King Charles: Stay out of politics

September 12, 2022

The key to boosting King Charles' approval ratings will be remaining in a traditional role, his subjects on the streets of London say. Others say he’ll have to face the unpopularity of the monarchy as an institution.

King Charles III
Britain's King Charles III greets well-wishers on Sept. 9, the day after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth IIImage: Yui Mok/AP/picture alliance

King Charles III has a long way to go if he hopes to become as popular as his late motherElizabeth II enjoyed an impressive 75% approval rate among the British public, polling group YouGov found earlier this year, with fewer than one in ten saying they didn't like her. By contrast, Charles was the seventh most popular royal. Just 42% of respondents said that they liked him.

What can he do to close that gap? DW asked Londoners to bestow their new King with some advice ahead of his coronation on Sept. 19.

For both Hilmi Uludag, 42, and Phillip Williams, 55, the key is to stay out of politics. "My advice for Mr. Charles would be, he should do what his mum does," Uludag said over the counter of his shop near Paddington station in central London. "He's a younger generation. He wants to put his nose in the politics."

Williams, out walking a dog in the Kensington neighborhood, said Charles should avoid "talking about the green [environmental] challenge for society. It's not his place to do so as a monarch. He should concentrate on being a head of state for us."

'Try and have a positive influence'

By contrast, Krishan Gandhi, 34, said he would like Charles to use his "position of power to have a positive impact.” Gandhi, who spoke to Deutsche Welle in Kensington Gardens, said he was "definitely not big into the monarchy."

"But if it does stick around they should try and have a positive influence," Gandhi said. "I know that he's not supposed to get involved, but I am happy that he's got quite a progressive stance on green stuff," he added.

Being Indian, Gandhi said he had issues with the monarchy. But actually, Gandhi said Charles had a good approach in his first speech. "In terms of our colonizing past, I thought it was really refreshing to hear him openly, candidly talk about it. It made me think that it was moving away from a stuffy institution."

Charles may have to work even harder to win over people like 24-year-old Cara, who declined to give her surname and was out strolling with Joe, 23, in the same park. "It's a bit of a touchy subject, but a lot of people loved Diana. Lots of people, myself included, would struggle to forgive him for what happened," Cara said.

'The inequality doesn't sit well'

Charles's ex-wife Diana Spencer died in a car crash in 1997, one year after the divorce that ended their unhappy marriage.

When it came to the monarchy as a whole, Joe voiced concern about more recent events. "The monarchy has had some pretty testing times this year with all the scandals surrounding Prince Andrew. And the whole Harry and Meghan saga, which is not necessarily their fault, but there's been a lot of bad publicity."

He was referring to how Prince Andrew came to a legal settlement this year with Virginia Giuffre, a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was underage. Meanwhile, Prince Harry quit royal life in early 2020 and moved to the US with his wife Meghan Markle.

Fay Wright 31, out and about with Gandhi, said that when Charles's reign was over, possibly in 20 or 30 years, the public might think harder about the modern meaning of the institution of monarchy. "I think the inequality doesn't sit well with a lot of people," she said.

Gandhi agreed. It was important, he said, not to "rub our noses in the wealth and all of that. Loads of people are struggling to pay the bills, and they're going on shooting weekends."

As Uludag put it, royals "should carry on with their kingdom lifestyle, and leave the politics to the politicians." Will Charles pull it off? "I'm not sure," he said. "Time will tell."

Edited by: Kristen Allen